We don't have television and contrary to what most people think when they first hear of this oddity of ours, we didn't make that decision due to a brittle insistence on sitting on our resoundingly superior moral high horses. Initially we were just too poor to swing cable financially and found that we really liked the resulting lifestyle that came along with no TV. That's it. Mind you, now that I've been without it for nearly eighteen years, I find that I'm frequently shocked at what is on television these days. (Alotta pretty overt hoochy going on out there, I note sqeamishly.) Anyway, it is during my daily dinner preparation times where I secretly wish for TV. I don't say it out loud, though, because I'm loathe to create an issue where none now exists. Not one of the kids has yet ever requested "channels," (as the Littles call it) but when they do, we may have to reevaluate our choice then.
When our kids turn 12, they begin to prepare one dinner per week for the family, which I thought was a genius plan initially, but which has actually turned out to create a lot of upfront work for me. I failed to factor in the fact that they were beginning with zero knowledge and that that knowledge wouldn't spring forth magically from a vacuum. I remind them (or more accurately, just Anabel now, at this juncture) to choose their meals two weeks at a time and create the resulting grocery list, which because of their initial enthusiasm often features very exotic and difficult-to-find items. Then of course I cook the loftily grandiose meal alongside them while showing them the different techniques. Anabel is just now beginning to be able to do large chunks of the meal on her own. I grit my teeth as we go and tell myself that I'm saving myself a lot of work in the long run. I find that we make far more exotic and time-consuming meals this way because of her excitement than I'd normally be inclined to do. Anabel makes things like Chicken in Phyllo and Gourmet Mac and Cheese (her personal favorite) and lazily perusing cookbooks has become one of her very favorite activities. So really it's a win, albeit a very time and energy consuming one.
Most days of the week, we have evening activities. For those of you so bored to find yourself interested, Mondays is youth group and piano lessons. Tuesday is also youth group. Wednesdays are guitar. Thursdays are currently swim lessons and then there's the blessed release from the Have-To's over the weekend. I've always been very strident about not scheduling formal children's activities over the weekend, though I know that many families do and are consequently even busier than we are. However, our weekends are now full with sleepovers and birthday parties and Valentine's parties and Easter parties for kids. Two of our four are now of the age where it doesn't just seem to be birthday parties anymore. A sad new phenomenon I note in our lives is that we are often separated into divergent groups on weekends now. I'm off doing an errand with a kid or two and JoyBoy is driving someone else to a bowling party and since there are six of us, life has shaken down where it feels a lot simpler for us to divide and conquer. I think back fondly of the days where if one of us had something to do, the rest of us would naturally accompany. We did family activities more, like trips to the zoo or Science World. Now it seems that we all have impossibly full social calendars that take the emphasis off of family and on to friends. Inevitable, I suppose, but it saddens me nonetheless.
Fewer times a week than I'd have thought proper before having these real, live, fleshy little creatures in my life, (a paltry three-ish) I bathe Oliver and Lucy. Because we have only a single soaker tub in our house, my el-cheapo nature insists that they always be bathed in multiples of twos. Not together any longer, mind you, they'd never have that. Along those lines, a refrain of Don't look at my bum! meets my amused ears tonight as I gear Oliver up for his plunge. As hard as it may be for you to believe, I answer, looking at your bum isn't my primary goal for tonight. Yes, it is! Looking at my bum is your hobby! he bellers out triumphantly in return. He's at the age where the more frequent the references to bums, the happier his little heart feels. He always asks for what we've come to term 'the business bath.' This means a quick dip where one is rapidly soaped and shampooed up and then out. I always say yes and without fail, he always changes his mind once in. The allure of the warm, soapy water and the empty shampoo and bubble bath bottles I save to just this end are more than he can resist. They, along with his little black motor boat sing their siren call. I have to bring things to a close for when it is Lucy's turn. He grouses a bit and laughs and insists again that no one look at his bum. I clean his ears, though conventional wisdom says I should not, and in the blink of an eye, he's in his long-john-type Paul Frank pajamas that make him look younger and so cute that the image makes my eyes sting. And then it's my Lucy-girl's turn. She knows that she'll just love her bath because that's how Lucy approaches life. She just knows she'll love everything. She comes, carefully prepared and armed with her little family of mermaids. There are two babies and a Mommy mermaid who come to chat and swim merrily with her as she soaks her little nine-year-old body. There are long moments of swooshing her own hair back and forth as she's magically transformed into a mermaid herself. I know these fantasies. I once had them too. I remember our old blue bathtub that was perfect for transitioning from regular old life in my regular old bathroom to the translucent majesties of queenly life underwater. I watch my little girl, swooshing obliviously, and I am so happy for her. I delight in her carefree little mermaid life.